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Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville

Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville

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Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville

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  1. Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville Lsn 11

  2. Lincoln’s Command Problems • After Antietam, McClellan kept the army in western Maryland until Oct 1862 • Lincoln could not find a general that would aggressively fight the war • He’d already been through McDowell, McClellan, Pope, and McClellan again • On Nov 7, he relieved McClellan and replaced him with Ambrose Burnside

  3. Fredericksburg • In spite of his early success on the North Carolina coast, Burnside was very modest and did not think he was up for the job • He tried to decline the responsibility, but Lincoln insisted

  4. Fredericksburg • Within a week of assuming command, Burnside launched a new “On to Richmond” campaign • The plan was to slide past Lee’s right flank and cross the Rappahannock River at Fredericksburg, about fifty miles north of Richmond • Burnside would have to cross the Rappahannock quickly before the Confederates could oppose him in force

  5. Fredericksburg • In order to cross the river Burnside would need to build a pontoon bridge but the necessary materials did not arrive until December • By then Lee had plenty of time to concentrate in and around the town • This development made Burnside’s plan obsolete but he continued with it anyway • On Dec 11 the Federals began crossing the river

  6. Fredericksburg • Lee did not contest the town, instead basing his defense on the nearly impregnable positions on Marye’s Heights just west of Fredericksburg • One of Longstreet’s artillerists commented, “A chicken could not live on that field when we open fire on it.” Marye’s Heights

  7. Fredericksburg • Defending the town itself was Brigadier General William Barksdale and 1,600 Mississippians • Burnside unleashed a huge artillery bombardment to try to protect his engineers’ efforts to build bridges • Barksdale’s men took shelter in basements, emerged virtually unharmed, and continued to harass the engineers William Barksdale

  8. Fredericksburg • Eventually Burnside realized artillery alone wouldn’t do the job and launched a makeshfit amphibious assault • Barksdale continued to harass the infantry and made an orderly street by street withdrawal, falling back to the Confederate position at Marye’s Heights The Mississippians taught the Federals “the lesson which artillerists must learn anew in each generation– that a bombardment which will destroy buildings will not necessarily keep brave defenders from fighting on amid the wreckage.” (Bruce Catton)

  9. Fredericksburg • Lee had some 20,000 men under Longstreet on Marye's Heights behind a stone wall at the crest of the ridge • To guard against a Federal crossing downstream, south of the city, Lee had the rest of his men to the south under Jackson along hills in another excellent defensive position • On Dec 13, Burnside made six major assaults against Marye’s Heights • All failed

  10. Fredericksburg • The constricted battlefield prevented Lee from counterattacking the weakened Federal army • The Federals lost over 12,500 men • The Confederates less than 5,500 • Lee summarized, “It is well that war is so terrible, or we should grow too fond of it.” The Stonewall at Fredericksburg

  11. Frontal attack • The frontal attack is frequently the most costly form of maneuver, since it exposes the majority of the attackers to the concentrated fires of the defenders. • As the most direct form of maneuver, however, the frontal attack is useful for overwhelming light defenses, covering forces, or disorganized enemy resistance.

  12. Fredericksburg • After Fredericksburg, Burnside desperately tried to flank Lee with a surprise crossing of the Rappahannock south of Fredericksburg by his main army and a cavalry raid crossing at Kelly’s Ford and striking Lee’s supply lines • Burnsides’ subordinates had lost confidence in him and they notified Lincoln of the plan • Lincoln put a halt to it as being too risky Joseph Hooker was among those whose criticism of Burnside bordered on insubordination

  13. Fredericksburg • Burnside revised the plan to move upstream and cross at Banks’ Ford • He began on Jan 23, 1863 and heavy rains produced a two-day “Mud March” that stymied the offensive • Amid more complaints from his subordinates, Burnside returned to camp near Fredericksburg “The Mud March” by Mort Kunstler

  14. Chancellorsville • Hooker replaced Burnside after Fredericksburg • “You are ambitious, which, within reasonable bounds, does good rather than harm; but I think that during General Burnside’s command of the Army you have taken counsel with your ambition, and thwarted him as much as you could, in which you did a great wrong to the country…. I have heard, in such way as to believe it, of your recently saying that both the Army and the Government needed a Dictator. Of course it was not this, but in spite of it, that I have given you command. Only those generals who gain success can set up dictators. What I now ask of you is military success, and I will risk the dictatorship…” • Abraham Lincoln

  15. Chancellorsville • Hooker had about 110,000 troops and Lee has just 59,500 • Hooker planned to envelop Lee with Sedgwick fixing Lee across the Rappahannock from Fredericksburg and Hooker moving southeast from Chancellorsville to crush him

  16. Chancellorsville • Lee discovered Hooker’s plan, concluded Hooker’s divided army presented an opportunity, and plannned his own envelopment • “[Lee’s] very name might be Audacity!” • Colonel Joseph Ives

  17. Chancellorsville • As Lee began to attack, Hooker lost his nerve and ordered a withdrawal • Hooker’s generals couldn’t believe it • “Nobody but a crazy man would give such an order when we have victory in sight! I shall go and see General Hooker myself, and if I find out that you have spoken falsely, you shall be shot on my return.” • General Henry Slocum to the messenger who delivered him Hooker’s order

  18. Chancellorsville • In the Civil War, the cavalry served an important intelligence-gathering function, acting as the commanders “eyes and ears” • Especially at the beginning of the war, the Confederacy enjoyed a marked advantage in cavalry • Jeb Stuart in particular provided valuable and timely reconnaissance for Lee • Stuart had a great knack for interpreting what he saw on his rides and providing Lee with a perceptive intelligence summation • The Federal Army had no counterpart equivalent to Stuart, and Federal commanders had great difficulty in determining the location and strength of Confederate forces

  19. Chancellorsville • Hooker had ill-advisedly dispatched his cavalry on a raid against Lee’s communications • Hooker therefore had no good intelligence about Lee • On the other hand, Stuart had brought Lee information that Hooker’s flank was “in the air”

  20. Chancellorsville • Lee planned an envelopment • Kept 14,000 men to attack Hooker’s front and sent Jackson with 28,000 to attack Hooker’s flank

  21. Jackson crashed into the exposed Federal right flank “…. every sort of organization that lay in the path of the mad current of panic stricken men, had to give way and be broken into fragments.” Major General Oliver Howard, commander XI Corps Chancellorsville

  22. Chancellorsville • Brilliant Confederate victory • But at the cost of Jackson who was mistakenly shot by his own men while on reconnaissance • Jackson “has lost his left arm; but I have lost my right arm.” • Lee on learning of Jackson’s wound

  23. Chancellorsville: Leadership • Why did Hooker fail? • Shell shocked? • Coward? • Drunk? • Not drunk? • Nervous breakdown? • Out-generalled? • Unintelligent? • Afraid of Lee?

  24. Chancellorsville: Leadership • “For once I lost confidence in Hooker, and that is all there was to it.” • Hooker explaining his performance at Chancellorsville • …. but, if superior leadership won Chancellorsville for the Confederates, the loss of Jackson would present profound future leadership challenges for Lee

  25. Next • Gettysburg